Human trafficking thrives in places most Canadians can't see. The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, Thomson Reuters and three of its prominent legal clients set out to change that.
Around the world, an estimated 40 million people are victims of human trafficking. While no specific government agency has been tasked with keeping up-to-date statistics, there’s no reason to think the problem is any better in Canada than it is elsewhere.
“There is no national data collection mechanism on human trafficking, so there is no way to collect comparable statistics, and that has a significant impact on proper policy development” said Barbara Gosse, CEO of The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking. “We know from anecdotal evidence there’s an overrepresentation of victims from indigenous communities, and we know that victims are overwhelmingly young and female, but there isn’t clear information beyond that.”
When an issue is this shadowy, how can it be fought?
For The Centre, one measure is a new hotline it hopes to launch by the end of 2018. The toll-free number will serve as a resource both for victims and as an instrument to report, track and analyze human trafficking.
To train and educate the eventual hotline operators, though, The Centre needed some help. That’s where over 60 volunteers from Thomson Reuters came in.
Strength in numbers
In early May, Thomson Reuters volunteers in Montreal and Toronto put their skills to work, researching The Centre’s legal questions and hypothetical issues.
“We needed a partner organization with legal knowledge and the ability to come up with responses we could use for scenarios we’re likely to hear,” Gosse said.
It didn’t take long to find people willing to offer professional skills.
“In one sense, we were surprised at how many people volunteered, and in another, we weren’t,” said Gail Armstrong, Lead Manager Product and Content Development, who co-organized the event.
Around 35 of those volunteers were lawyers, and dozens more were content editors and product owners. The volunteers’ deep familiarity with legal topics made their contributions to The Centre’s project invaluable.
“We had access to a lot of information that even lawyers in practice don’t have at their fingertips,” said Product Development Manager Audrey Wineberg, a co-organizer of the event.
Fact-finding in force
Product Development Manager O’Neil Smith said he participated in the project because he was struck by the dire nature of the situation.
“I was quite surprised to hear that human trafficking is still alive and well in the 21st century, and particularly that it seems to be a pressing problem here in Canada,” he said. “There was a sense of urgency to it.”
Tessa Woodland, a Product Writer for the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest, recalled a similar event when she was in law school that she wasn’t able to participate in. When she heard about the research event, she knew right away it was something she wanted to participate in.
“I’m always interested in taking advantage of the volunteer opportunities we’re connected to at work,” Woodland said. “I could tell this was a worthwhile event because it is such an important issue, and it’s one where we are able to provide really valuable information.”
Gosse estimates Thomson Reuters volunteers contributed 500 hours researching issues like protections afforded to minors, international conventions that touch on human trafficking and privacy and confidentiality issues.
“Fighting human trafficking in Canada is something no one organization can do on its own, and the help these volunteers provided was just tremendous,” she said.
After the Thomson Reuters volunteers completed their work, it was sent to lawyers from Dentons, who will use the research and analysis to provide legal advice and conclusions for The Centre. Torys and Fasken also pitched in to provide legal support and several prominent legal departments of Canadian multinational companies also offered their support.
Neil Sternthal, Managing Director of Canada, Australia & New Zealand, described the volunteer event as an important milestone in Thomson Reuters two-year partnership with The Centre.
“I am so proud of the work of the entire team, and it’s a truly amazing example of what we can do collectively and in partnership with our customers to contribute to a greater purpose — one that will help make our communities and world a better place by helping to end this heinous crime and form of modern day slavery,” Sternthal said.
To learn more about human trafficking in Canada, visit The Centre to End Human Trafficking.